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Redefining 'Rasquacho'

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When he was growing up in Douglas, Pancho Medina heard others use the Spanish word "rasquacho" to describe people of a certain subculture.

"If I call you that, it means you have no class at all," said the local artist and activist. "Period. It means you have no respect for anybody. You might say that a woman looks rasquacha if her hair isn't done. It's used to describe the poorest of the poor."

Someone who can't afford to have his car painted, and therefore goes to the dollar store and buys a dozen or so cans of spray paint to do the job himself, is a perfect example of rasquacho, Medina said. He also said that using a piece of wire to secure a muffler to a car is very rasquacho.

However, Medina is now putting a more positive spin on that word at the Third Annual Rasquacho Art Show on Saturday, June 30. The show is a fundraiser for Pan Left Productions, a local video collective that's been around since 1994.

Previously, the Rasquacho Art Show was held at Medina's house, but this year, the show is being held at the Splinter Brothers and Sisters Warehouse; the crowd last year was almost too big for Medina's small southside home. Besides, his house is already pretty stuffed with artwork--there wouldn't be much room for the crowd of 100 or so they're expecting this year.

Hanging in his living room is one piece, "Viva la Revolucion," dedicated to his father who fought in the Mexican Revolutionary War. A cassette tape player affixed to the side of the piece plays music from 1910, the year of the revolution.

"It's not fine art, what most people would call fine art, pictures of flowers and vases," Medina said. "It's not fine-tuned."

Rasquacho art, as Medina calls it, is about taking what you have--cardboard boxes, boards, wires, maybe hitting the dollar store for a can of paint and the thrift store for a cassette tape player--and making art out of it.

This is how most of Medina's art is created. He uses things he has sitting around the house, such as a refrigerator box he used to construct a bus in the piece "Shuttle to Sasabe," in which a bus full of people ride with a skeleton through the desert.

"There was a legend that developed that on these buses driving (migrants) to the desert, that death was riding with them."

He's not sure what he's going to call a piece he's still working on for the upcoming show. Right now, it consists of a big Howdy Doody doll pulling a red wagon filled with a dozen or so toy guns that Medina bought at a dollar store.

Like with his other pieces, he wants to use this one to send a message.

"I might call it 'Jimmy's Off to War,' or something," Medina said. "Kids come up to me with their little guns, and they shoot and say, 'You're dead, mister!' What's happening to our society?"

Medina still can't quite figure out what to do with the last toy gun, a replica of a Colt .45. It represents the golden age of cowboys and Indians, he said, and he wants to emphasize that.

Despite the show, Medina said he doesn't consider himself an artist.

"'Artist' has an elitist flavor to it," Medina said. "I don't want to be an elitist. I'm an activist, 24/7."

Medina works with several nonprofits; he makes sandwiches and serves soup at Casa Maria and works with No More Deaths on immigration issues. Borderlinks, a nonprofit that brings groups through Southern Arizona to learn about border issues firsthand, has brought several tours through Medina's house to see his art.

"This isn't a museum or an art gallery," Medina said. "But if people want to learn, then it's my responsibility to teach them."

In addition to Medina's pieces, the show will feature video from members of the Pan Left collective and other artists such as Gail Contreras, Tanya Alvarez, Valarie James, Raquel Mogollon, and Barbara Tesso.

"It's going to be a multimedia extravaganza," said Elizabeth Burden of Pan Left. "We put the tools of media into the hands of artists and activists, not just those with a media-arts background."

There will also be live music by Elise DuBord, Pablo Peregrino and Jose "Pepo" Saavedra.

The Third Annual Rasquacho Art Show starts at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 30, at the Splinter Brothers and Sisters Warehouse, 901 N. 13th Ave. A $5-$10 suggested donation will get you in. For more information, call Pan Left Productions at 792-9171.

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